Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has apparently told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) aircraft stolen from the SA Air Force (SAAF) and put in museums meant there were insufficient aircraft for pilots to qualify for their wings.
When asked why SAAF pilots were being sent to Cuba and Russia for training she is reported by Politicsweb as saying “we have a problem”.
“Sometimes these young people train and they run short of flying hours before they can get their wings,” explained Mapisa-Nqakula. “We can’t give them those flying hours because there are no aircraft”.
The minister said if government buys them people start “screaming” about buying aircraft. “So you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t,” she said.
“I tell you that some of the aircraft were taken by some of the people who left the Air Force and they belong to them in their museum.
“Actually it started ages ago and some of the people stole some of the assets of the people and left with them. So when you talk about shortages it has to do with the fact that some of the assets were stolen,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) NCOP member, Leigh-Ann Mathys, urged her to go and get them back and said the EFF would support government in this.
“We must bring our stolen stuff back. If people stole our equipment we must go and get it back. Just like our land.”
There was widespread reaction on social media and aviation chatrooms with the majority of posters, mostly retired SAAF members and military aviation enthusiasts, asking if those in power “are really so clueless and misinformed”.
This was elaborated one by one poster who presumed the Minister was talking about aircraft at the Harvard Club at AFB Zwartkop.
“These aircraft were given to the Harvard Club, attached to the SAAF Museum, after they were taken out of service. Due to the efforts of a handful of enthusiasts, a few of these magnificent aircraft have been kept in flying condition following decades of service at Central flying School Dunnottar.
“A fleet of brand new Pilatus PC-7 Mk II trainers were introduced in the 90’s and all the old Harvards were put up for auction. Most were bought by the Americans with only a few remaining in SA in the hands of private owners. If it wasn’t for the museum ‘stealing’ the aircraft, almost every last one would be in Florida or California.
“Mrs Minister, the exit from service of a fleet of 1950’s trainers, and the subsequent efforts by a handful of enthusiasts to save a few of them for austerity, has no effect on the SANDF’s ability to train new pilots. The reasons, believe it or not, are very similar to the demise of most other government departments. Simply put, the second oldest Air Force in the world, once the pride of the nation, has been run into the ground.”